Sweden often emphasises how important it is that the world’s states comply with the rules and acts enshrined in international law. This means that countries have to adapt their national legislation in accordance with these rules, for example in terms of human rights. In many areas Sweden is at the forefront in providing for people’s human rights.
– However, when it comes to international developments in the last twenty years surrounding the rights of indigenous peoples, Sweden has found it difficult to adapt, says Peter Johansson.
A considerable change
In recent decades there has been an international development of the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples. This has taken place at a global level in the UN and at a regional level in institutions including the Council of Europe. The result of this development is that the status of indigenous peoples within international law has changed considerably. After having previously been viewed primarily as ethnic minorities with their cultural, linguistic and religious rights protected by international law, today indigenous peoples have achieved recognition of their status as peoples. They therefore have the right to self determination, land and natural resources, even though the extent of these rights is disputed.
The dissertation studies whether, and if so how, Sweden’s view of the status of the Sami people under international law has changed during the period 1986-2005. This is compared with international developments surrounding the status and rights of indigenous peoples and minorities.
– It transpires that Sweden has found it easier to adapt to the protection afforded to national minorities than to the protection that indigenous people should have according to international standards, says Peter Johansson.
This is demonstrated by the fact that Sweden has ratified the Council of Europe’s two conventions that protect national minorities and their languages, but has thus far refrained from ratifying ILO convention no. 169 on the rights of indigenous peoples.
– The consequence of the last decades of Swedish policy towards the Sami is that they are recognised in words as an indigenous people, but that in practice they are not treated as such. Instead it can be said that the Sami have acquired the status of a ”deluxe minority ”, Johansson continues.
Consequences for Sweden
The Sami have more extensive rights than other minorities, but the scope of those rights does not conform to internationally set requirements for indigenous peoples’ rights. According to Peter Johansson there is a risk that this situation will have a detrimental effect on Sweden’s international status as a country that defends human rights. Furthermore, it might have consequences for how Sweden can work internationally with minority- and indigenous peoples’ issues, as international politics often sets requirements that you practice what you preach.
Title of the dissertation: The Sami – an indigenous people or a minority? A study of Swedish Sami politics 1986-2005.
Time and location for the disputation: Friday 23 May 2008, 10.15, Room 220, Annedalsseminariet (Campus Linné), Seminariegatan 1A, Göteborg.